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Lenox Hill Hospital Doctors Pull Off Stunning Surgery, Save 6-Year-Old Ethiopian Girl With Massive Facial Tumor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Here's a story that you must see to believe, a truly miraculous transformation.

A 6-year-old Ethiopian girl was born with a face tumor that grew to a massive size.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez has more on the team of doctors from Lenox Hill Hospital who saved her life.

Nagalem came from a tiny Ethiopian village that had no phones, no running water, and no electricity. The relatively small tumor she was born with continued to grow over six and a half years until it had taken over half of her face. While Nagalem was a happy child, the tumor, known as a cavernous venous malformation, continued to grow until it became life threatening.

"As it expands, these very, very thin-walled veins become very precarious. Minor trauma could result in a major hemorrhage ... which can be fatal," Dr. Milton Waner said.

Most major medical centers in the U.S. declined to take on such a dangerous case, which began with, according to Lenox Hill's Dr. Bob Rosen, "embolization, or sclerotherapy, where we basically clot off the ... intentionally clot off these spongy venous spaces."

Then, Dr. Teresa M. O and Dr. Waner began the dangerous task of slowly cutting out the malformation, saving vital nerves, blood vessels and even reconstructing part of her jaw bone.

"The venous mass not just involves the soft tissues, but also the bone. The jawbone was overgrown, and the cheekbone is also overgrown. We did shave down and drill down some of the jawbone," Dr. O said.

Just two weeks after surgery, Nagalem looked completely different. She was a little shy, but she and her father are incredibly grateful for the team that gave her her life back.

Nagalem will spend a couple of months in the U.S. for some touch-up work and to make sure she's completely stable. Doctors say the tumor should not grow back.

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